External Insulin Pumps: Say Goodbye to Needles & Syringes

For many people who have diabetes that must treat themselves with insulin injections on a daily basis, the external insulin pump is a godsend. External insulin pumps are the closest technology available that can automatically mimic the body’s natural process of insulin control. This device takes care of the gradual induction of rapid acting insulin, and is fully automated.

As far as price is concerned, external insulin pumps are very expensive. The cost can be as high as $6,000 or more for just one unit. But the investment is entirely worth it when you consider that injecting insulin every day for the rest of your life is a reality. And many diabetic patients do not have the luxury of achieving regular glucose control with the use of syringes and insulin pens alone.

What companies sell these external insulin pumps?

As of 2007 there are five companies which produce external insulin pumps. These organizations are Nipro Diabetes Systems, Deltec, Animas, Medtronic MiniMed, & DANA Diabecare. Other manufacturers may step into the playing field and produce their own versions of external insulin pumps, but for now the market is dominated by the above five companies.

How does an external insulin pump work?

Each of these pumps are no bigger than the size of your wallet or a pager. There is a small motor inside the pump, and within this pump is a a syringe (filled with insulin). A plunger is set against a small screw as it slowly eases down to force the insulin to flow out of the syringe. A short tube is attached to the end of the syringe, which connects to a needle that pushes into the skin of the stomach. Insulin is then slowly pushed underneath the skin.

There is a speed, or rate, at which the insulin eases into the abdomen. This is called a “basal rate” which can be set at any time you wish by programming a computer chip. You can instruct the machine to deliver a certain amount of units of insulin within a time period of, for example, 30 minutes to an hour. The amount of units delivered from one hour to another can also vary, depending on how it is programmed.

The external insulin pump also has the ability to have extra insulin manually injected by the patient. For example, if you are about to eat a meal then you can push a button on the unit which will help deliver the extra insulin needed. This would be considered a “bolus” of insulin.

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